The German Vaulting team has taken the lead in the freestyle. © Kate Houghton/FEI
"We can do a little bit more to [be] perfect, but this was very good. We will have to do it a little better [in the final round], and we will do it very perfect. That is our plan for the finals."
The German team vaulted aboard Adlon, a 15-year-old Brandenburger. The Germans' composite score is a 7.698, and they're followed closely by Austria (7.644) and the USA (7.655). The final team competition will be a freestyle program on Sunday.
The United States, which had been leading going into today's performance, had some bad luck when two team members fell from their horse during its Romeo and Juliet themed Freestyle.
"We had horse troubles today - we struggled through out Freestyle because our horse was shying at the TV camera," said US team member and coach, Devon Maitozo. "So every time on one side of the ring he would cut in, and during one of my very high parts, he cut in significantly so we had a major fall. And we had to be careful through the entire thing, so it did affect us," he said.
"Physically we're fine, mentally we'll recover, and Sunday we have still a great opportunity to take back our lead," Maitozo said.
Teams from Switzerland (7.467) and France (7.299) round out the top five.
In individual competition, vaulters performed a technical test today, which requires them to go through five exercises from different categories of motor skills. The athletes put those exercises and others of their choosing to music in a one-minute program. On Saturday, they will perform their final freestyle, and the cumulative marks will determine the medalists.
Coming out of yesterday's individual freestyle competition, 18-time Swiss champion Patric Looser of Switzerland maintained his lead with a composite score of 8.369. He admitted to being surprised at the outcome.
"I am very happy with my technical test, because it's not my special thing. I know that I can win a compulsory, I can win a freestyle and be in front, but a technical, it's my thing where I have to work on it," he said. He attributed the success in part to his horse, Record RS von der Wintermuhle, an 18-year-old Hessian stallion.
"I know I have one of the best horses here, and that gives me security. It's nice to vault on him," Looser said.
Germany's Kai Vorberg put in the men's highest technical score of the day, and that moved him into second place with a composite score of 8.353. The music that accompanied his performance was his own rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." The remaining vaulters in the top five are Nicolas Andreani of France (8.301), Stefan Csandl of Austria (8.123) and Gero Meyer of Germany (8.091).
In the female individual division, the high-scoring technical test of the day moved Joanne Eccles of Great Britain, the 2009 European Champion, into the lead with a composite score of 8.327. But she said nothing is certain with one performance yet to go.
"I think the competition has been full of ups and downs. The first day, I did really well. The second day, I wasn't happy with my performance so much. Today, I am happy again," Eccles said.
"There's some fantastic competition here; it could go any way. There are about seven girls who are at the top, and anyone could take the lead. So if I don't go out there and enjoy it, there's no point in coming to the competition, so my aim is more to have a really good final round and be pleased with myself, rather than see what place I come."
Eccles' father, John Eccles, is her longeur and trainer, and the family owns their vaulting horse, W.H. Bentley, a 16-year-old French warmblood-Dale pony cross.
Standing currently in second place is Antje Hill of Germany with a composite score of 8.207. Simone Wiegele of Germany (8.192), Mary McCormick of the United States (8.133) and Megan Benjamin of the United States (8.065) round out the top five.
Judges are Suzanne Detol (USA), Jochen Schilffarth (GER), Erich Breiter (AUT), Martine Fournaise (FRA), Monika Eriksson (SWE), and Roland Boehlen (SUI).
Female - 1, Joanne Eccles GBR 8.327; 2, Antje Hill GER 8.207; 3, Simone Wiegele GER 8.192; 4, Mary McCormick USA 8.133; 5, Megan Benjamin USA 8.065; 6, Alicen Divita USA 8.025; 7, Christa Kristofics-Binder AUT 8.001; 8, Lisa Wild AUT 7.999; 9, Rikke Laumann DEN 7.916; 10, Anna Cavallaro ITA 7.881.
Team Freestyle - 1, Germany 8.399; 2, Austria 8.338; 3, USA 8.102.